Two ‘spotter’ seats for ambulance staff said to have been made available for supporters at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough could have ‘made a difference’ in flagging up the unfolding disaster earlier, a senior ambulance chief claimed.
The seats behind the players’ tunnel at Hillsborough football stadium were normally used at league games to provide ‘the eyes and ears’ in the ground at league matches, but inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters heard claims that the club sold them to spectators for the all-ticket game on April 15, 1989.
Instead of being positioned in elevated seats in the ground’s South Stand the two ambulance station officers had seats at ground level between the Spion Kop and the North Stand, the jury sitting in Warrington heard.
The then Chief Metropolitan Ambulance Officer for South Yorkshire, Albert Page, said that the South Stand tickets were unavailable for his staff on the day of the disaster.
“I was told that it was to sell them to spectators,” he said.
He said it was ‘less than desirable’ that the new seats allocated to the ambulance service for the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were at pitch level.
Jason Beer QC, representing Sheffield Wednesday, queried whether he was suggesting that the change in seats had ‘made a difference’ to what his staff could see in the Leppings Lane stand where fans were crushed.
Mr Page replied: “It did. Elevated seats would see inside the paddock at Leppings Lane.
“They would have seen the exit from the tunnel. They would have seen the build-up of people in that area, whereas from the ground straight in front was a line of police officers because they were talking about a pitch invasion.”
The barrister also said he was unaware of the allegation that the club had sold the two seats for the semi-final and that evidence had been heard from the then club secretary that it was actually due to ‘a mix-up’.